Heard it From Hoard: Column 51
After seeing Oklahoma play in person, I would rank the Sooners #33 in the country.
As in the 33rd NFL team.
A couple of UC coaches said they have never seen a bigger or better offensive line. Tight end Jermaine Gresham is a freaking monster (6'6", 262 pounds with 4.6 speed), and sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford now has a career TD to INT radio of 43-10.
Sorry Ohio State fans, but there's no way the #3 Buckeyes are better than the #4 Sooners.
As ugly as Saturday's 52-26 final score was, the fact that the Bearcats were down by eight midway through the third quarter - in Norman - was pretty impressive. Mardy Gilyard was the best player on the field, and UC became the first team ever to pick off two of Bradford's passes in one game.
In fact, in light of West Virginia's lopsided loss to East Carolina, I honestly believe that if UC gets good quarterback play it will be in the hunt for a BIG EAST Championship and BCS bowl bid.
Admittedly, that has become a significant "if."
When we got the word in the radio booth high atop Memorial Stadium (ever tried to identify jersey numbers from the space shuttle?) that Dustin Grutza had a broken fibula (that's the bone on the outside of the lower leg), I assumed that his season and career were probably over. I was thrilled to learn after the game that he could be back in 4-5 weeks. Grutza was thrilled too.
"That's definitely a relief," the senior quarterback told me. "We have a great medical staff and I think they're going to work their hardest to get me back as soon as possible and I've just gotta have faith in them and faith in God that I'll be able to get back."
Cincinnati's "next man in" manta puts the onus on former Reading High School star Tony Pike to lead the team through a 3-game stretch (Miami, at Akron, at Marshall), that will be critical in establishing bowl eligibility.
"What happened to Dustin is tragic," Pike told me. "Basically, we need to get back to work and get into practice and let me show this team that I can be a leader and I can help this team win a BIG EAST championship as well. A couple of guys came up to me in the locker room and said they're supporting me and they know we're not going to miss a step."
I asked Mardy Gilyard if Pike would be ready to take over in two weeks.
"Pike's ready now," Gilyard said. "He was ready in camp to be the next man in. There's no doubt in my mind that Tony Pike's going to step in and pick up right where Dustin Grutza left off. He just has to continue to do his thing, continue to work with the system, continue to get good reads, continue to develop his footwork, and we're going to be OK."
While Pike is the obvious starter in two weeks against Miami, I'm sure Demetrius Jones, Zach Collaros, and Chazz Anderson will get plenty of practice reps during the bye week. Jones is still learning the offense after transferring from Notre Dame (there are more than 200 variables between plays, formations, and protections), but I could see Coach Kelly preparing a limited package to get him on the field.
Who knows, perhaps Hardin County Judge William Hart will grant Ben Mauk an injunction against the NCAA allowing him to immediately practice and play. I'm thinking those of you who have simply wanted the Mauk case to be over are reconsidering that opinion today.
Now time for my Game 2 report card, and in this case I'm grading on a curve - no failing marks because the Sooners are that good.
I thought Grutza was terrific with the exception of the dreadful end zone interception in the second quarter. As Coach Kelly stressed to him as he came off the field, 'It was first down - if nothing's there throw it into the stands!" Still, Dustin threw for more than 200 yards in the first half and kept the 'Cats in the game. Pike didn't do much, but you're not going to have much success throwing the ball against Oklahoma in a lopsided game when 8 guys are dropping back in coverage.
Running backs: C
Ramsey and Goebel combined for 54 yards before UC had to abandon the run when it fell way behind in the second half.
Wide receivers: B-plus
Gilyard had his second straight 100-yard receiving game, Goodman had 6 more catches including a touchdown, and it was great to see Adrien Robinson make his first college catch. But Bones Barnett got shutout for the first time in his UC career. The 'Cats need to find a way to get him the ball.
Offensive line: C
I barely called Austin English's name (no sacks after having 12 in his previous 12 games), and the 'Cats moved the ball well in the first half. They sputtered in the second half, and still need to clean up the penalties.
Defensive line: C
Considering that they were going up against the best offensive line they will ever see, I thought they did a great job against the run. However, they weren't able to get any pressure on Bradford. I'd be willing to bet that Terrill Byrd's 9 tackles is the most an interior lineman has against the Sooners all year.
Andre Revels had a terrific game with a team-high 12 tackles, but not a great day for the unit overall.
Defensive backs: C
Kudos to Brandon Underwood and Brad Jones for their interceptions, but the DB's allowed a couple of big catches when they were in good position to make a play on the ball. In fairness to them, I don't know if any team can stop Gresham, who would be the perfect solution to the Bengals endless search for a game-changing tight end.
Special teams: A-plus
I know, they missed another extra point, but Gilyard had 3 kick returns of 51-or-more yards. His 97-yard touchdown in the third quarter ended the 'Cats 145-game streak without a kick return TD.
"I didn't know it had been 13 years - I knew it had been awhile," Gilyard told me after the game. "(Special teams coach Mike) Elston spent hours - I mean hours - he spent a couple of days sleeping in the office if I'm not mistaken breaking down OU's kickoff team and their punt team. He was like, 'Mardy listen, this is where it's going to hit for you to make a play. It's going to be just you and the kicker,' and I ended up making a play. It was really easy the way he set it up. It was foolproof."
Mardy finished with 365 all-purpose yards - a new single game record at UC.
So, after two weeks the 'Cats are right where most people expected them to be: 1-1 with three games left before opening conference play against Rutgers. I'm already excited to see what Coach Kelly comes up with on offense in the annual "Battle for the Victory Bell" against Miami.
See you at Nippert in two weeks.
I'd love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad in the arms of the person responsible for his good looks.